Long ago (read: way back in 1996), Eidos released an influential title known simply as Tomb Raider. Besides starting a franchise that would beget nine installments, Tomb Raider pioneered the way for 3D graphics; gameplay that focused on exploration, platforming, puzzles as well as combat; and its iconic protagonist Lara Croft. While many fans are already well acquainted with Lara Croft as the confident treasure hunter that fights dinosaurs, finds Excalibur, and explores the Norse underworld Niflheim, this latest installment (also simply called "Tomb Raider") starts at the very beginning. That is, in a move similar to Christopher Nolan rebooting Batman with Batman Begins, developer Crystal Dynamics presents a new take on Lara's origin.
Here, she is fresh out of University and joins an expedition to find a lost island. The player encounters Lara as a young woman and guides her to becoming a hardened survivor on a remote island full of wild animals and dangerous scavengers, who later on becomes the bold treasure hunter we already know her to be.
This new Tomb Raider still mixes gunplay with exploration, and does so with a new overarching aesthetic. The more fantastical elements from previous games are largely absent—there's no wielding of Thor's Hammer Mjolnir here. Lara starts the game by just fighting native wildlife and simply surviving, and works her way up to taking on human opponents. This emphasis on realism rather than fantasy, plus the narrative arc of turning vulnerability into brutality, results in a gritty and atmospheric take on the treasure hunting genre.
The developers haven't skimped on the gameplay either. While there are linear and action-packed set pieces and Quick Time Events (cinematic interludes that call for specific button presses for progress), there are also elements of sandbox design. See a particular group of fellows that block your progress? You're not necessarily forced into a pitched firefight—besides assault rifles, you can utilize tools and resources like the silent bow, explosives, and the layout of the area itself, or enact tactics such as stealthy melee kills to take on foes however you wish. Besides combat and exploration, there're also hunting, foraging, and crafting mechanics to round out the adventure.
But enough talk about this new take on the Tomb Raider franchise—download your copy today and start Lara's transformation from young woman to hardened survivor.
Posted by Thierry Nguyen on March 03, 2013